As Google struggles by the labor lawsuit, former staff accuse the corporate of ill-treatment

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The Google logo of the American multinational technology company can be seen in the Googleplex, the headquarters of Google and its parent company Alphabet Inc.

Alex Tai | SOPA pictures | LightRakete | Getty Images

As judges review subpoenas in a nearly year-long trial that pits Google against its employees, former employees of the company do their part to highlight the mounting tension between the two sides.

Three former Google employees filed a lawsuit this week, accusing their former employer of quitting them for protesting a cloud deal that Google signed in 2019 with the Trump administration’s Customs and Border Police.

Rebecca Rivers, Sophie Waldman and Paul Duke allege in the complaint that when they were hired by Google they were asked to sign a contract containing the company’s catchphrase “Don’t Be Evil”. Plaintiffs say Google has violated the agreement and is seeking redress and other indemnities for having suffered “significant reputational damage and reintegration opportunities.”

Google parent Alphabet has no reason to worry financially – the company has more than $ 140 billion in cash on its balance sheet and a market capitalization of about $ 1.9 trillion. But a string of work stoppages, internal arguments about how the company uses its artificial intelligence, and lawsuits related to the treatment of its workforce put a potentially heavy burden on a company that has long prided itself on a culture of openness and inclusivity.

Last December, the US National Labor Relations Board filed a complaint against Google, alleging the company had illegally resigned and monitored its employees in retaliation for their efforts to unionize. The trial has been suspended for the past few months while judges review the subpoenas and it is unclear when it will resume.

Laurie Burgess, the attorney who represents the former employees suing Google this week, said the latest lawsuit is in part intended to “serve as a reminder that this is still alive”.

In response, a Google spokesperson made the following statement to CNBC on Saturday afternoon: “As we confirmed in 2019, like most companies, we are hiring dozens of outside advisors and law firms to advise us on a variety of topics, including employer commitments and employee engagement.” For a short time this also included IRI consultants. We disagree with the Special Masters decision that incorrectly characterizes various legally privileged materials, and we are examining our options. ”

This week, a judge in the NLRB case, Paul Bogas, ordered Google to unseal more than 70 documents related to its communications with IRI Consultants, who describe themselves as an industrial relations firm. The NLRB alleged that IRI was discontinued as part of Google’s anti-union effort, which was referred to as “Project Vivian” according to legal documents to classify the documents. “My review has shown that at the same time the defendant has made significant efforts to give this illegitimate third-party material the appearance of privileged communication,” wrote Bogas. “Much of these documents are or involve the development of campaign materials in which IRI provides anti-union messaging and reinforcement strategies and training tailored to the respondent’s workforce and the news and social media environment.” In January, Google employees arrived together to form the Alphabet Workers Union, which now has more than 800 members. Although it currently makes up less than 1% of the company’s total workforce, the union is proving that it wants to be vocal and active. She assisted Google employees who were employed by the contractor Adecco, which had just won a battle against the company and Google after the company scaled back a bonus program for temporary workers in data centers. “Ned McNally, a temporary worker at Google’s data center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, told the New York Times last month after the win.

SEE: Google is postponing January return to work plan amid Omicron

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